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European historicals about "normal" people?
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aiven



Joined: 11 Nov 2009
Posts: 57

PostPosted: Wed Nov 11, 2009 10:09 pm    Post subject: European historicals about "normal" people? Reply with quote

I've been reading romance since the early 90's, and lately I've begun to wonder if there are any European historicals that don't feature the peerage and/or the fabulously rich. Although I realize that it's somewhat more exciting to read about "the beautiful people," I would be interested in hearing suggestions from people who've read books that take place on a somewhat smaller stage. I suppose pirates, soldiers, and vampires would be ok, but I'm really looking for something different--kind of like the European version of the American colonial/frontier romance. Any suggestions?
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Elizabeth Rolls



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
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Location: Australia

PostPosted: Wed Nov 11, 2009 10:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fair question, Aiven. I write Regencies myself, so take my suggestions with the appropriate waivers. Wink
Romance is to a great degree about fantasy. I think, and someone will correct me if I'm wrong, that we like to fantasise about people who have a certain standard of living, and perhaps more importantly, a degree of self determination. We want to read about people who have the potential to have some control over their own lives. Many of the "ordinary" people in Europe didn't have any of that (unless they emigrated to America, in which case it becomes a colonial/frontier romance). I think this is why so many European romances centre on the upper classes. This is not to say other stories couldn't work, but they might verge more towards historical fiction as opposed to romance, which as some might say, has the fairytale element. You could look at Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series if you want a little more grit in your romance. Madeleine Hunter wrote at least one medieval where the hero was an artisan, (By Design, I think.) so they are out there.
I see this is only your second post; welcome.

Elizabeth
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Susan/DC



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 1653

PostPosted: Wed Nov 11, 2009 10:49 pm    Post subject: Normal People Reply with quote

Try Carla Kelly. Many of her books do not have aristocratic H/H, but they nonetheless fulfill my definition of Romance.
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aiven



Joined: 11 Nov 2009
Posts: 57

PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 12:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the kind welcome and thoughtful response. I totally agree about the fantasy aspects of historicals and romance in general--this is, after all, why even our medieval h/h tend to have "even, white teeth." Very Happy I did read one of the Outlander books (Dragonfly in Amber.. I didn't realize at the time that it was a series) and enjoyed its grittier nature. And come to think of it, even the urban fantasy/paranormals I read are always about the head of the most powerful vampire clan or the Alpha werewolf of the Alpha clan or some other preternaturally elevated character. So there's always been an appeal and a sense of higher stakes when the nobility is involved, at least for me.

Susan, it actually was Carla Kelly that inspired me to ask about the availability of this type of historical romance. I read and enjoyed THE SURGEON'S LADY, and though there was a Lady AND a soldier the conflict had little to do with high society or reputations or debts or estates. It was different. Not that there's anything wrong with a devilish-and-titled-rake, mind you. It just made me wonder if there were other books out there where unusual societal niches/settings are explored, or where the romance of the nobility is secondary to the romance of less societally elevated characters. (In THE SURGEON'S LADY, the heroine is a bastard titled by marriage working as a nurse and the hero is a surgeon.)
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Allyson



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 567

PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 2:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I definitely get a bit tired of it always being nobility.

For some reason these discussions often turn out like those who feel this way want NO nobility, or that it's between a duke or someone living in abject poverty. While the latter doesn't really appeal to me either, why not something in between? Have you tried Lisa Kleypas? Lots of her heroes are noble, but she has quite a few who are 'self made' men. I can't think of all the titles offhand, but 'Dreaming of You' is probably her most popular, hero definitely no noble. Also non-noble heroes=Suddenly You, Again the Magic, her Bow Street series..

I'd love to see more characters who have jobs--characters can live just fine without needing to resort to extreme riches, IMO.
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veasleyd1



Joined: 02 Dec 2007
Posts: 2064

PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 5:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you don't insist on strict romances, but will take them with mystery elements, there are quite a few that deal with non-nobility -- entertainers, a midwife's apprentice, etc. You can dip into Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael series as a start. A few of the books mention the royal court, but most deal with the county sheriff, the citizens of Shrewsbury, and people who range from local gentry to beggars and vagabonds.

There's another series with Roger the Chapman (a peddler). The author is Kate Sedley.
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msaggie



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 667

PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 6:44 am    Post subject: Re: European historicals about "normal" people? Reply with quote

aiven wrote:
I've been reading romance since the early 90's, and lately I've begun to wonder if there are any European historicals that don't feature the peerage and/or the fabulously rich...
aiven, there are plenty of romances which feature people who are not of the noble classes - but perhaps they'd be classified as "historical fiction with a romance sub-plot". Thus, many would also deal with social issues of the day - industrial revolution, and other social upheavals. One of my favourite romances is Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South - the hero and heroine are not noble at all, and there is a class divide. The heroine would have been of the gentility. Others include Jane Austen's perennially popular works, and the Bronte sisters' books.

Apart from the romances already mentioned, Penelope Williamson, Pamela Morsi and LaVyrle Spencer wrote about heroes and heroines who were not rich and titled, and there is a grittiness to their romances (especially Williamson's) which are reminiscent of Gabaldon. But these are mainly "Americana" romances. Catherine Cookson was very popular in the UK and she wrote very many historical romances featuring "normal" people. I agree with Elizabeth Rolls's post stating the reasons why so many European historicals feature the nobility.
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Aislinn



Joined: 29 Jun 2009
Posts: 34
Location: Montreal

PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 7:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It seems to me that Laura Lee Gurkhe's Victorians feature characters who aren't necessarily members of the aristocracy. Also I just downloaded the free companion read to Caroline Linden's upcoming release For Your Arms Only, and that one doesn't look to feature aristos, either. That one's not coming out until the 24th though.
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dreamweaver



Joined: 21 Jun 2009
Posts: 328

PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 8:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Allyson wrote:
Yeah, I definitely get a bit tired of it always being nobility.

For some reason these discussions often turn out like those who feel this way want NO nobility, or that it's between a duke or someone living in abject poverty. While the latter doesn't really appeal to me either, why not something in between? Have you tried Lisa Kleypas? Lots of her heroes are noble, but she has quite a few who are 'self made' men. I can't think of all the titles offhand, but 'Dreaming of You' is probably her most popular, hero definitely no noble. Also non-noble heroes=Suddenly You, Again the Magic, her Bow Street series..

I'd love to see more characters who have jobs--characters can live just fine without needing to resort to extreme riches, IMO.


Yes, Dreaming of You is one and the Bow Street series - all good books. A Scandal in Spring is another one. Neither Daisy nor Matthew are nobility, although Daisy's family is rich. Some of Judith Ivory's books do not have noble heroes or heroines, IIRC. Sleeping Beauty, I think is an example, but I could be wrong.
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sssspro



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 531

PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 9:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am shocked no one has mentioned Madeline Hunters' early By... series. By Design, By Possession, etc.

I realize that if you've been reading since the mid 1990's you've probably read her books, but those are the only ones off the top of my head that I can think of that don't entail only the nobles. Great books too.
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belize



Joined: 26 Jul 2007
Posts: 48

PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 12:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sometimes the authors of "historical fiction", as opposed to "historical romance" feature members of the working class.

I recently read a book by Gillian Bradshaw, called "London in Chains" where the heroine was working as a printer in seventeenth century London. The hero is a soldier.

A month ago I read another book set in the seventeenth century, by Rosalind Laker, in which the heroine created cosmetics and ointments. It was "Garlands of Gold". I can't remember the hero's occupation but he was not titled and I'm pretty sure he was in business in some way
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CD



Joined: 15 Sep 2007
Posts: 665
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 12:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Catherine Cookson was very popular in the UK and she wrote very many historical romances featuring "normal" people. I agree with Elizabeth Rolls's post stating the reasons why so many European historicals feature the nobility.


I LOVE Catherine Cookson - she writes romances with working class heroes/heroines, especially in the north. Obviously grittier than the usual fare but great romances nonetheless. What I love about her is she doesn't romanticise either the lower or upper classes - seeing the good and bad of both. But the fact that her heroes/heroines manage to find love and romance at the end always gives you that silly grin that you need from romance Wink.

In terms of mainstream romance, I would just echo Carla Kelly, Penelope Williamson and Lisa Kleypas as writers who often write "common people". Connie Brockway also - her classic ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT and AS YOU DESIRE feature commoners as both the h/h. And as someone mentioned - Judith Ivory/Cuevas as well: THE PROPOSITION is a favourite of mine. Patricia Gaffney's Wykerley trilogy as well - Sebastian in TO HAVE AND TO HOLD is the only real aristocrat.

If you're looking for Medieval romance, then you obviously have Madeleine Hunter's BY XXX trilogy - all of which have either the hero or heroine as a commoner. Roberta Gellis has two great books: MASQUES OF GOLD (middle class) and THE ROPE DANCER (street entertainers/working class). Also Carol Townend's AN HONORABLE ROGUE and Blythe Gifford's books have middle class characters.

I think we need a new Special Title listing here!
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mamaofthree1963



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 139

PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 2:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi, and welcome...

One of my very favorite writers is Anne Perry, who writes two different series from Victorian London times. They're not romances in the strictest sense, but both series feature happily-married couples who complement each other so very well. Neither includes nobility (other than a sister-in-law in one series) but are mysteries, and the way Perry describes everything from gas lamps glowing to Bow Street runners' britches is incredible, IMO. I love historical romances, but sometimes it's so refreshing to read about regular folk in regular homes with regular jobs. A good writer, which Perry certainly is, can make most anything at all interesting...

rob
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mamaofthree1963



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 139

PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 2:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aiven,

Sorry---forgot to add that I strongly second the Connie Brockway classic (IMO!), All Through the Night. Please give it a try if you haven't yet read it---I think you won't be disappointed...

rob
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Charlotte McClain



Joined: 04 Oct 2008
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 3:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you don't mind the sci fi elements, Connie Willis' Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing Of the Dog are great. Another good mystery series is the Sister Frevisse series by Margaret Frazer.
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